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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Another Problem in Possible World Semantics

  • Author(s): Ding, Yifeng
  • Holliday, Wesley Halcrow
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

In "A Problem in Possible-World Semantics," David Kaplan presented a consistent and intelligible modal principle that cannot be validated by any possible world frame (in the terminology of modal logic, any neighborhood frame). However, Kaplan's problem is tempered by the fact that his principle is stated in a language with propositional quantification, so possible world semantics for the basic modal language without propositional quantifiers is not directly affected, and the fact that on careful inspection his principle does not target the world part of possible world semantics---the atomicity of the algebra of propositions---but rather the idea of propositional quantification over a complete Boolean algebra of propositions. By contrast, in this paper we present a simple and intelligible modal principle, without propositional quantifiers, that cannot be validated by any possible world frame precisely because of their assumption of atomicity (i.e., the principle also cannot be validated by any atomic Boolean algebra expansion). It follows from a theorem of David Lewis that our logic is as simple as possible in terms of modal nesting depth (two). We prove the consistency of the logic using a generalization of possible world semantics known as possibility semantics. We also prove the completeness of the logic (and two other relevant logics) with respect to possibility semantics. Finally, we observe that the logic we identify naturally arises in the study of Peano Arithmetic.

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